Hepatitis C or simply Hep C is a very common and infectious disease. The ailment which is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) mainly affects the liver. It is estimated that the people affected by this infectious disease range from about 150 to 200 million people worldwide. Hepatitis c symptoms can generally be categorised as follows:

Acute/Severe Symptoms

People suffering from hepatitis C infection will develop severe infections. The acute symptoms normally account for about 15% of all the noted symptoms. However, the signs may be quite mild and unclear such that many people will fail to notice them, or associate them with other diseases. This has usually led to the diseases advancing to a more critical level thus causing more harm. Statistics show that 10 to 15% of the cases will erupt suddenly while the rest will take place gradually and overtime. Common hepatitis c symptoms include nausea, lack of appetite, painful joints, aching muscles, vomiting, fatigue or tiredness, diarrhea, loss of weight, itchy skin, and dark urine. Considering that many other conditions also share the same signs, many victims will assume the disease. Rarely will the symptoms develop or cause severe failure of the liver, cirrhosis (liver damage) or jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes).The most affected group is made-up of women and young people.

Chronic Symptoms

The incubation period of hepatitis C is usually between 2 weeks and 6 months. The symptoms may develop and become quite noticeable. 80% of the victims affected by the hepatitis virus will exhibit chronic symptoms. Usually, the symptoms will be quite mild at the beginning but will become more pronounced as time goes by. Notable hepatitis c symptoms during the chronic stage include fatigue, stomach ache, swollen feet and legs, itchy skin, jaundice, clay-colored stool, and coffee-colored urine.If allowed to progress, the ailment may lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and cancer of the liver. HCV is believed to be behind 25% of the cases of hepatocellular carcinoma, and 27% of all cases of cirrhosis. Approximately 10 to 30% of the people who develop cirrhosis will have had the disease for more than 30years. People suffering from ailments such as HIV, schistosoma and hepatitis B are more likely to be affected by cirrhosis.

Extrahepatic Symptoms

At times, the chronic symptoms may not affect the liver but rather the blood vessels. This will lead to the inflammation of both medium-sized as well as small blood vessels. The infection of the blood vessels may lead to a condition known as cryoglobulinemia. Symptoms of this condition include very dark urine, headaches, weak limbs, and extreme cases of jaundice. People suffering from hepatitis C infection may also experience insulin resistance hence exhibit the same symptoms that are associated with low insulin or diabetes mellitus. Other probable conditions include diabetic nephropathy, B-cell complications, and autoimmune thyroiditis. Generally, hepatitis c symptoms at this stage include swollen feet, belly, and legs, muscles shrink, the skin may develop tiny reddish spider-like spots below the skin, red spots on the face, chest and shoulders, variceal bleeding( bleeding through the inflamed blood veins in the digestive tract), and reddening of the palms of the hands due to enlarged blood vessels.

Occult Symptoms

In some instances, the symptoms associated with the hepatitis C virus may clear. However, the virus will still remain lodged in the body system. Due to lack of obvious symptoms or none whatsoever, it becomes tricky to assess the symptoms. This requires advanced forms of testing which are carried out in a clinical laboratory. The most popular is ultra-sensitive testing and serum testing. Initially, viral genome used to be done on liver biopsies. However, this mode of diagnosis has declined overtime. In modern times, other methods have been discovered, these include examining whether the core protein of the virus is in the antibodies, and ultracentrifugation (concentrating viral particles then testing for the viral genome). Poor concentration, confusion, nervousness, and memory lapse are some of the known hepatitis c symptoms. Though a bit tricky to diagnose, occult symptoms are not as severe as chronic symptoms.

Many people suffering from the disease will go for weeks or even months without knowing it. Usually, by the time they get to know of the disease, it might have progressed to critical stages. Therefore, a patient should always seek medical assistance as soon as he/she notices the hepatitis c symptoms however mild they may appear.